Protection of coastal properties: Policies and actions

Prof. Nick Harvey1

1University Of Adelaide, Coromandel Valley, Australia


National government reports have identified a significant number of Australian residential properties at risk of future coastal erosion.  This is due largely to inadequate consideration of coastal processes in earlier development approvals.  More recent coastal development decisions have been influenced by a greater awareness of coastal vulnerability particularly in relation to predicted climate change and an accelerated sea-level rise.  This has resulted in improvements to state-based coastal management legislation, policies, coastal protection and adaption strategies.

When residential properties are faced with coastal erosion the main three response options for coastal decision-makers are to ‘protect’, ‘adapt’ or ‘retreat’.  This paper examines the different Australian coastal jurisdictions to assess what procedures or guidelines are used to determine which response option should be used in relation to vulnerable private properties and if so who should be responsible for implementing and funding the strategy.  Case studies using different types and densities of coastal residential development facing imminent erosion are used from selected states to illustrate what happens in practice, with specific reference to protection strategies.  The paper concludes that there is a wide variation in policy between the various states and territories.  These vary along a continuum from a requirement to privately fund coast protection; to state-subsidised protection works; to state assistance for developing protection strategies; and finally to rejecting protection works in favour of a ‘retreat’ option.


Nick is Emeritus Professor at the University of Adelaide and Vice-President of the Australian Coastal Society.  He was formerly Director of the Centre for Coastal Research and a member of the South Australian Government’s Coast Protection Board.  Nick was a Lead Author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 4th Assessment Report of, which was jointly awarded the Nobel Peace prize.  Nick has 40 years experience in coastal research, over 200 publications including scientific papers and books such as Coastal Management in Australia (Harvey & Caton, 2003, OUP); Global Change and Integrated Coastal Management: The Asia-Pacific Region (Harvey, 2006, Springer)